Manoeuvres: Reverse Parking

Many learners come to our driving school just wanting to learn how to reverse park. It is seen as the pinnacle of driving skill. It is a complex manoeuvre, however, you are unlikely to hurt anyone too badly by not performing it well.

The reasons that it is difficult to teach the reverse park for most supervisors is that they are at the unconscious competence(habit) level of skill ie they just do it. What most learners don’t realise is there are several skills that must be mastered before reverse parking can be attempted. If we try to do reverse parks before these skills are mastered then frustration is what you will be practicing!

Before we can reverse park we need to be proficient in the use of:

  • Accelerator and brakes
  • The gears
  • The clutch
  • Starting and stopping the car
  • Hand over hand steering technique
  • Blind spots
  • To and from the kerb
  • Slow moving forward
  • Up hill starts
  • Down hill starts
  • Reversing
  • Slow speed control
  • Road signs and markings

The key to doing a successful reverse park

Once we are proficient with the above list of competencies then reverse parking can be relatively simple, we just need to identify a couple of key points on the vehicle to turn in and turn away again. Our trainers know exactly where these points are.

Whenever you are setting up a reference point, use the rear corner closest to you of the vehicle you are parking behind. Any method that references the steering wheel or any other point on the other car is floored, not all cars are created equal! The main thing to remember when we are practicing is to keep the vehicle moving slowly as possible and the steering moving as quickly as possible. Over time the learner will get faster and more unconscious of the process until ultimately they are not thinking at all about the process.

The other thing to make sure to practice is how to fix a park that goes bad, eg we are further from the kerb than we hoped. In these situations we need to work on getting the rear wheels closer to the kerb. Think of this process like doing a mini reverse park. This skill will be useful when getting into parks that are only just big enough for the car to fit. If we find ourselves at too higher an angle and too close to the kerb and too close to another vehicle then the only option is to start again.

What level do we need to be to say we are expert?

When we first start practicing we will be using either flat or slight uphill roads but how do we know we are ready for the real world? Many young people are going to make one of their first trips to the beach on a nice summer day. This will involve a tight reverse park on a steep hill with other cars waiting, people walking around and fish and chips shops full of spectators. Wouldn’t it be great if we were able to confidently park up in this situation!

Driving Test Intricacies: The Test Car

There are many components to the driving test. Many of these driving test intricacies can put positive or negative impressions in the mind of the testing officer. In this post, we explore the details of the test car.

What car can be used for the driving test?

Service NSW does not provide a test car for learner drivers on the test day. However, the learner can take the driving test in any registered vehicle matching the licence class they are being tested for. This must be a vehicle that weighs up to a maximum of 4.5 tonne Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) and seats no more than 12 people. We, of course, do not recommend taking a moving truck to the test.

What will the testing officer be looking for?

The testing officer will check that all the brake and signal lights are working correctly, and have no cracked or broken lenses. This is to ensure the safety of the driver, the passengers and the other drivers on the road. A learner driver needs to be able to communicate properly on the road with correct signals during the driving test.

Other safety essentials include a clean and crack-free windscreen without chip damage, tyres that are not worn out and rims without any sharp edges from crash damage. Inside the car, the testing officer will check to make sure the seat belts are functioning properly.

How can the testing officer be helped to feel comfortable and safe in the car?

Having a half-eaten Happy Meal, the dogs breakfast (we mean that literally) and school textbooks that can fill a library in the back seat of the testing car is not the ideal way of impressing your testing officer. Yes, impressions do count. Make sure the car is clean and free of debris that may become a hazard in an accident. We recommend that it doesn’t smell like month old unwashed laundry either. Let’s make the testing officer feel comfortable when they enter the car.

Although a BMW for example may excite some testing officers, more often than not they will fear the learner may go over the speed limit. BMWs tend to do that to drivers… We recommend using a car that is less aggressive and places an emphasis on safety first.

What is the Trent Concierge?

The Trent Concierge is a driving test concierge service. Trent Driving School ensures that all the other variables are eliminated and the learner driver only concentrates on the task at hand: the driving test.

The Trent driver trainer will pick up the learner on the test day from home, school or work. The driver trainer will also warm up the learner during the drive to the testing location, and present them to the testing officer. At the end of the test the student will be driven back to their original location.

The Trent Concierge car won’t have rubbish floating around on the floor, or McDonald’s ready for the testing officer on the backseat – although we may want some to fill our stomachs before the test. Nor will the car have any safety concerns such as broken tail lights.

Most importantly, testing officers feel more at ease in our dual-control fitted cars, as they have a braking pedal on their side of the footwell.

Read more:
WHAT’S IN A DRIVING TEST?   |  DRIVING TEST SUCCESS

Why do people fail their Driving Test?

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We surveyed our trainers on what were the main causes of failing the driving test.
What was the number one response? Nerves.

How to Prepare

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The best way to manage your nerves on test day is to be trained to above the driving test standard. By working with a driver trainer early in the learning process, you will build safe habits into your driving. When you are under pressure your muscle memory will take over, so any bad habits that were ‘corrected’ in the days before the test won’t have had time to take root in your muscle memory and they will come back.
In the weeks leading up to the driving test, your trainer can put you through the Trent on Road Test (TORT). During this test you will be taken around a predetermined test route that is far more difficult than the driving test.
This way, you get used to being assessed. The TORT will also test what is habit and where weaknesses exist. It is just as important to practice being assessed as it is to practice your reverse parks and three point turns!
On the day of your test, your trainer will look after you with our concierge service. You will go for a short warm-up drive and be presented to the testing centre. Your trainer knows where to park, what paperwork is required, when to arrive and how to present the vehicle so that you don’t have to worry about anything.

Getting the Right Mindset

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Get a good night’s sleep before the test, eat your normal meals and do something that takes your mind off the imposing test. Don’t overthink the event. When you are well prepared you can walk into the test with the mindset that you are going to show the testing officer how safely you can drive. Take a couple of deep breaths before moving off on the test and stay calm.

Don’t Give Up!

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Too many times we have seen students return from their test and the testing officer saying that they drove really well until they stalled on the hill start. Had the student just taken a deep breath and kept trying their best,  the minor control error would not have blown into a fail item for a poor decision at a roundabout. The testing officer is not expecting you to drive like Mark Webber, they are looking for you to drive safely.

Common Myths

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There is a misconception that all testing officers are evil grumps that enjoy watching you fail. This is not usually the case! Since the changes to Services NSW has been rolling out, the testing officers are of a much higher standard. They realise that it is in their interest to make you feel comfortable on your test. The testing officer will not try to trick you by asking you to do a turn where one is not allowed.
If you accidentally turn right when the instruction was to go left, it is not the end of the test.

What if you are not successful?

Not everyone passes first go. Plan your course of action before the test, are you going to re-book on the spot or online with your trainer at a later date? Before you attempt another test, have a couple of lessons with your trainer to work on the items that were not up to scratch the first time and go to the next test with more knowledge and skill. Sometimes you will learn more in defeat than in victory.
For more information about the driving test read: WHATS IN A DRIVING TEST?